A week ago, the word "vuvuzela" had never reached my eyes or ears. Now it has, and its noise, it's definitely reached my ears. (Many others' ears, too, which is why World Cup officials are wondering whether they should ban the horn.) The drone's been compared to mutant bees, but listening this morning, with the Serbia-Ghana World Cup game on my TV, I've remembered something else:
Cicada Swarm '87! When I was a junior high student in Northern Virginia in 1987, I experienced a mass unexplained sponge migration a 17-year cicada revival, apparently of this species. Millions -- billions? -- of the largish flying insects emerged from the ground and, for many indelible days, made NOISE. Constant, unearthly noise. They covered many tree branches (in which they deposited their eggs), they hopped all over the place, they buzzed, and eventually they died. Presumably at some point later their newborns then dropped from branches (many of which dried out and died) and burrowed, but that's not the noisy part. The cicadas attract mates by buzzing their wings. Really buzzing. Incessantly buzzing. So for many days. I and the rest of Northern Virginia were treated to the sound of impending cicada sex. This noise remains one of the most surreal things I've yet experienced. It was like a swarm of locusts that didn't eat the crops -- they were here in swarms, then they were gone. The ensuing silence was deafening in its own way.
There were more of the 17-year cicadas in Northern Virginia in 2004, though not nearly as overwhelming a swarm (development probably dug up or completely buried many broods; development in that area has been huge in that time span). I wasn't in the region during that revival (my spring 2004 trip didn't coincide), but I was getting once again to listen to Don Geronimo and Mike O'Meara, the D.C.-area DJs I'd listened to in the 80s and 90s and who by then had their show syndicated to, among other places, my current home of Portland. That year, one of their interns brought a tape onto their show. The intern, back in 1987 when he was a budding student of radio, had gone outside and recorded that buzzing noise; he knew he'd want to keep it. So in 2004, I and other Don and Mike listeners got to hear that noise again.
Not dissimilar to the vuvuzela drone, at least to my mind. But apparently the vuvuzela drone is EVEN LOUDER. Ear plugs, people! Maybe you could plug them with cicadas OK, that's a terrible thought.